Page 299 - Week 01 - Thursday, 14 February 2008

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what Mr Pratt says, because he has in his possession information which supports the government position and he is selecting from it. I urge members opposite to examine those papers before they stand up in this place and make fools of themselves.

Mr Pratt: Don’t intimidate my colleagues.

MR HARGREAVES: I have advised them. This bridge is so rickety that one engineer has advised the department:

It is my opinion that the strong winds in the week after we inspected the bridge—

that is in September of 2006—

have caused large movements in the bridge and failed some of the old Allan truss members …

If the wind can cause the failure of some of the trusses, what would traffic do or a high flood?

Mr Pratt took members of the public to the area under the bridge for a barbecue—under a bridge that could fail in a strong wind. I doubt that he has so many supporters that he can afford to lose a few if the bridge falls on them. This was in the company of Senator Humphries, just prior to Christmas—and he knew that this bridge was suspect because he had in his possession the report from the engineer that told us that, because he got it on an FOI request. It told us that the bridge was dangerous and recommended that it be closed to pedestrian traffic. It is a bit irresponsible to take people under such a bridge.

It might also be helpful to get some facts on the table rather than Mr Pratt’s assertions and half-truths. First, the bridge has been closed from time to time in the past for repair; we know that. For example, it was closed on 3 April 2005 for safety reasons; that is, there had been significant deterioration of important structural members of the bridge. I do not intend to compromise public safety and I make no apology for exercising caution in this area.

Repairs were carried out then on the bridge at a cost of about $350,000, plus the Bailey bridge was hired from New South Wales and installed. The Bailey is an ongoing cost and New South Wales wants it back in July of this year. These repairs permitted the bridge to be officially reopened to light traffic on 12 August 2005. Light traffic was defined as five-tonne loads. Unfortunately, the bridge continued to be used by trucks and buses weighing far in excess of five tonnes and consequently the repairs did not last. The bridge had to be closed again on 19 September 2006, and remains closed, on public safety grounds.

It has been 31 months since I attended the first of three community meetings, but I can assure the Assembly that the government has not been sitting on its hands since then or between meetings. I have been unjustly criticised for not consulting on this issue. There has been considerable consultation. I have had three meetings with the Tharwa community. I have had two meetings with groups of rural leaseholders. My department made presentations to interested bodies, including the Tharwa community, the Heritage Council and the wider Canberra community.

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